Bogotá’s start-up ecosystem is on the cusp of something big. Colombia is the third-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world and with the stagnation of the Brazilian, Argentinean and Venezuelan economies it is primed to become the new tech hub of Latin America.
The government of Colombia has passed a number of measures to develop the ICT sector, such as eliminating value-added taxes on computers and tablets. Further efforts are set to give 96% of cities and towns fiber optic internet access along with cloud storage.
According to the City Initiatives for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CITIE) Bogotá was given a ranking as a Builder city.
Builder cities are at a stage of rapid transition, actively investigating policies to enhance their budding ecosystems. Builder cities also carefully consider entrepreneur-friendly policies, not just those that advance new methods and ideas.
Affordable Places to Live, Work and Congregate
Bogotá suffers from low entrepreneurial density. Entrepreneurs can find affordable work spaces in Bogotá, but they are not clustered like the established Fortune 100 companies that crowd the financial district.
The rest of this huge urban centre could benefit from a higher degree of entrepreneurial density in order to help coalesce the entrepreneurial community and promote information sharing, inspiration and momentum amongst its members.
The Bogotá ecosystem has a number of accelerators and co-working spaces. Hubbog remains the oldest accelerator and co-working space. It runs on a profit model, charging entrepreneurs a fee and equity in their companies for access to a number of different programs.
Atom House, a privately held co-working space, has offices for rent in both Bogotá and Medellin, along with a fund, Social Atom Ventures that invests across Latin America. Telefonica has brought their international accelerator program, Wayra, to Bogotá as well.
The start-up pipeline is full in Bogotá thanks to healthy government support, private funds, and contributions from entrepreneurs themselves who want access to some of the programs listed above. The heavy volume suggests that it’s only a matter of time before the exits start to roll in.
Hubbog founder Rene Rojas has helped launch over 77 start-ups in the last five years.
The biggest success is Tappsi, a taxi-booking app that has grown exponentially since its launch three years ago. Tappsi, with about 80 employees now, was co-founded by local entrepreneurs Juan Salcedo and Andres Gutierrez. They’ve remained active in the start-up ecosystem, working hard to parlay their success into new ventures.
Domicilios, a home delivery start-up, successfully exited to Germany’s Rocket Internet. While winning exits are few, start-ups nonetheless fill many accelerators and incubators. Rojas is optimistic about more exits in the next 24 months. That would allow more expertise, money and mentorship to flow back into the local ecosystem.
Bogotá seems poised for success given its tech-rich companies on the verge of lucrative exits. It does not have Malmö’s entrepreneurial recycling, but the exits could lead to an upswing in capital and experience that supports new ventures for the community.
Though entrepreneurial density is low, various accelerators and co-working spaces offer proximity for players to work and congregate. An urban innovation district could significantly integrate the community.